Seen but not heard: The budget from a woman’s perspective
While the country continues to fight its war against COVID, women are fighting their own war – to be heard, seen, protected, respected, and get a fair deal financially. The last budget was silent for women, and so the consequences got louder. How does this budget measure up?
Right now, I’m reminded of the world wars – to keep the country going, women were all hands on deck, in factories, businesses, nursing, all whilst raising children while men fought on the frontline. With shrinking unemployment and negative overseas migration there is a fresh opportunity for women to get through those closed doors. Sectors are struggling to find employees i.e. retail, hospitality, aged care, child care, admin, roles predominantly occupied by women but there were disincentives – no superannuation if you earn under $450/month, childcare costs, travel times, lack of traineeships, flexibility.
Training schemes and infrastructure may help with the commute. The removal of the superannuation threshold may risk employers terminating if they find the cost of super too much for their bottom line, or say that super is included in your hourly rate and therefore the take home pay becomes less and the balance is trapped in superannuation.
I believe childcare should be free for any women working as an incentive to work and not a financial deterrent the budget didn’t quite hit the mark. The cap is better for higher income workers, but no real benefit for those with only one child which doesn’t help those returning to work or single parents with one child on low salaries. You will still have to wait a year due to “systems” and an election, but we could make JobKeeper and $900 for a TV during the GFC, move fast. Perhaps think bigger – nannies and au pairs tax deductible, generally a female role allowing them to work with flexible hours and help support the return to work. Clearly, it is a marathon, not a sprint.
We have also started to deal with what I call “Career Choice Gap” (CCG) i.e. careers women choose are generally those paid well below the average salary, and/or women choosing roles they’d prefer not to do, for financial reasons, or childcare costs. This budget looks to incentivise nurses but what about other roles? The rebate of $1,080 may help with some gender pay gap, CCG or lack of wage growth but with cost of living always rising, it isn’t life-changing and will cease.
Aged care changes may assist the sandwich generation issue for women who are trying to look after parents, parents-in-law, grandparents and children, whilst working, maintaining a household and their mental health. While the details are light, more is likely to be needed. The long-term issues are mental health, family breakdowns, low superannuation, or long term unemployment, which fall into other areas the budget is having to supplement.
Money is being allocated to the other pandemic that has been swept under the carpet for decades – violence against women. Whilst helping women “get out” is vital, “prevention is better than cure” and what guarantees do women have? Like all things the devil is in the detail. The 2 per cent deposit for a home, for which the government will guarantee the other 18 per cent deposit, is limited to 10,000 women, only those with dependent children and earn below $125,000, who can fund the ongoing payments. So, while this is a fantastic start and these women need help urgently, I doubt 10,000 would be enough for this pandemic. It also doesn’t help the 55-60 year old women who flee DV situations who don’t have children, don’t have independent income. This is how women end up homeless or forced to stay.
Some argue it’s just about getting the women’s vote at the next election. I’m happy if trying to get the women’s vote means they finally put policies in place for women and great that women have finally been seen, but perhaps not fully heard.
Helen Baker is a licensed Australian financial adviser.